Re: CPS 60s and prior
Brian J. Patterson
Date: January 19, 2014 10:06AM
Hello, Kchi and all.
1. I am 49 years old, and have never lived in Chicago. I am, however an observer of many facets of history. My opinions and ten bucks will by a cup of coffee, but only if you buy it at McDonalds. However, here they are anyway.
2. Plantwise, (the buildings, etc) during the timeframe you mentioned, CPS was actually BETTER than the Chicago Parochial School System as a whole. Our Lady of the Angels was the most visible example of that disparity, however it wasn't the ONLY one. During the time frame you mentioned, CPS had a far more robust tax base, thus could remodel and replace buildings more easily than the Archdiocese.
3. You are also describing the time when the first big crest of the "baby-boom" was going to grade school. Class sizes were larger because there was only so much room, and so many places you could build new and larger schools.
4. The Parochial Schools also had a much larger participation rate (how many parishioners sent their kids to the parish school instead of CPS) than they do now. And, the tuition rates when compared to income weren't as cheap as you'd think, even with nuns teaching instead of lay-teachers. But, the parents of the day held the church in much higher regard much more uniformly than they do now. Thus, "sacrifices" were made to send the kids to the parish school then, and not as much now. To this day, you will find parish schools that are "healthy," because the parents insist on sending their kids, and all members of that parish insist on paying enough money to their parish to keep the schools running. In other cases, the schools "went away" because the money to support them also "went away." If the parishioners don't have, or won't give the money to run a school, that school will eventaully close, as is making the local news right now. If the parishioners GIVE the money, and send their kids, the school flourishes.
5. I suppose part of the "issues" you're asking about are just "signs of the times." In the 1960s, most schools in Illinois were not air-conditioned. But then again, most HOMES in Illinois weren't air-conditioned, either. They certainly didn't have central air. In the [u]1860s,[/u]
most schools and homes didn't have indoor plumbing or electricity, either. Try to build a school or house without lavatories or wiring now!
6. Schools were not normally operated in the summer time back then, either. School NEVER started in the first week of August, and almost never lasted beyond the first week of June. However; with "institute days," "snow day makeup," "Heather has two mommies," and so on, it's a wonder school EVER lets out. In fact, some parts of the country now run the regular school year on a twelve month basis. Thus, air conditioning is in even higher demand than it otherwise would be. Because of the time you mentioned attending grade school, I would guess that you attended your fair share of August matinee movies to beat the heat, when you weren't swimming, visiting Riverview, standing by hydrant-sprays, or whatever. Would YOU have wanted to be in a hot stifling room with 29 of your closest friends in August?
7. Class sizes could be larger "back then" because in most cases, the children came from two parent families with at least one of the parents actively raising and helping to educate their child(ren.) Students actually WERE more consistently raised not to cause trouble back then as well. In short, that 30 student class in 1963 was "managed" more easily than a 20 student class of today. This was paticularly true in the Parochial Schools, when there were still close to enough nuns available that lay-teachers were not needed, and you could invoke God's name without getting sued. But, if the teachers had 20 student classes, they would have been able to do a better job, even back then.
8. Many people prefer to drink bottled water instead of tap water, for various reasons. These same people insist that tap water not be "inflicted" upon their childeren at school. Thus, the bottled water delivery. Also, I didn't see the delivery you mentioned. The bottled water MAY have been for staff ONLY. Either way, the problem is the perceived safety and paletability of tap water. Improve the safety and paletability of the tap water, and the bottled water issue will go away. For that matter, do YOU drink Chicago Tap Water? If not, why not?
9. People generally DON'T want their kids walking home for lunch now. In some cases, the parent or parents are all working. In other cases, the parent(s) are frightened of what may happen to their children during this "extra" walk from and to school. Sadly, this fear is NOT without good reason. Thus, you have the school of today that is actually as secure as a minimum-security prison.
10. The schools are also being used as a "safety" valve to reduce malnutrition and starvation amongst the children of poor or irresponsible people. For whatever reason, breakfasts and lunches sufficient for nutrition AREN'T available at home, and the levels of government involved have decided to use the schools as the place to prepare and serve these meals. Even where the children have parents able to provide meals, many DON'T want their kids lugging around a sack of food or an easily stolen lunch box all morning, now. Thus, the schools are obliged to provide two hot meals per day for the vast majority of their students. And, when every corner possible is cut at least twice to reduce costs, and still others use clout to sell spoiled food as if it were fresh, you get food that is so unpalatable that only the hungriest children eat it. Thus, the phenomonon you HAVEN'T mentioned, the strangely full dumpsters behind said schools.
11. For the record, the school lunch "price" is means-tested. If your parents aren't "poor" enough to make the cut, you have to PAY for your lunch ticket instead of getting it for "free." Even in the parochial schools, if they accept the federal lunch subsidy, (and most do,) you give either "free" or "reduced" meal tickets to the students whose parents qualify. The rest pay "full-price," whatever that price may be. Yes, friends, there actually ARE some people in poverty who still manage to pay what scholarships don't, and send their kids to the parochial schools.
12. Having an "enriched" K-8 education is actually a GOOD thing, provided the basics are also taught as part of this. Thinking both creatively and logically is a far easier skill to cultivate at 7 than at 17. Teaching this "enriched" curriculam gets more difficult when you have 40 students, ten of whom don't speak English, twenty-five of whom see no reason to learn what you are teaching, and the last five are too scared of the first thirty-five to ask questions. And, forget about assigning homework. Many of the children have no place or means to do it anyway.
13. For the question you asked indirectly; how do we fix CPS as a whole? Here's my answer. Fix the society it serves, and most of the problems will go away. CPS isn't a monolith; it is a constellation of schools. If the neighborhood the school serves is stable and has a solid tax base, then the school in question should, and often does excel. CPS actually has some of the best public schools in the United States. CPS also has some of the worst and most dangerous schools in the United States, for staff and student alike, because the neighborhood the school serves is also cronically in peril. If I actually start listing examples of how to fix the underlying problems, this post will become very politically incorrect, very quickly. However, I will say this. Right now, a white man can NOT walk the streets of Inglewood or Garfield Park in safety. (In fact, NO ONE can do so.) Likewise, a gentleman of color finds some difficulty walking the streets of Edgewater in quiet contentment. When the causes of these problems are solved, and they are indeed many, then the problems of CPS will be solved as well.
14. For the record, my "small-town" grade school received air conditioning in 1975 when a long-overdue addition was built. My high school was replaced with an all new air-conditioned building in 1980. The previous building complex had window air conditioners for office personnel only. So, I attended K-12 in both non-air condidioned and air conditioned schools. This is the time frame when August to June schooling was coming into vogue as well. The grade school had a cafeteria from 1942 on. The "old" high school had no cafeteria. High schoolers wishing to eat a "school" lunch for whatever reason walked or biked to the grade school. (They may have drove as well, but they weren't supposed to because of parking.) The new high school had a cafeteria, as would be expected for a school built in 1980, and students were no longer allowed to leave campus to eat lunch.
Brian J. Patterson.
> I would like to hear from some former CPS students
> who went to school in the 60s or prior. WHat
> interests me are what the conditions were. What
> brings this to mind is that I live near a school
> and just saw a delivery from Hinckley water and
> Rosen's bread. The stories I read in the papers
> is we don't spend enough, class sizes are too
> large and we need to provide hot meals or children
> can't learn. Also schools need to be air
> conditioned because it is too hot. I personnally
> went to a Catholic school who had no lunch hot or
> cold. You either went home, or brought a sandwich
> wrapped in waxed paper and a carton of milk bought
> at the local grocery. Class sizes were in the 30+
> range and no child was turned away.
> I find it hard to believe that students in the 60s
> or prior were given bottled water, small class
> sizes or hot meals. Were students allowed to go
> home for lunch? Was lunch provided free of charge
> or did you have to pay? Did anybody worry about
> the quality of the school or were you forced to go
> to the school nearest your home? ,